CPO To Go: 2011 Lexus IS250c
Most folks aren’t into cars.
They do want advice though; which is tricky for the B&B. While auto enthusiasts like us seek the Coltranes and Metallicas of vehicular enjoyment. They prefer… well… Jimmy Buffett. A well executed car that makes them feel comfortable, has a touch of ‘fun’ at times (the non-enthusiast types of fun), and can go about the transport business for a good decade and change with the same tune and minimal fuss.
They want Maragaritaville without the DUI.
All the convertibles in the $40,000 to $60,000 range seek to attract this mainstream audience. Can the Lexus IS250c do it better? And if so, at what price?
Walk around the Lexus IS250c and you’ll immediately notice two things. The first is that the vehicle has lines all over the place… and these lines are asymmetric. While the front and side profiles of the IS250c are evocative of the IS from which it is based, there are heavy thick lines on the front of the roof, sides and rear that almost have a mind of their own.
They curve. They dip. They even protrude when a lighter color is chosen over a darker one. From an engineering standpoint, they enable the Lexus hardtop to retract in a beautifully seamless way. But as a design element they accentuate the bulbous nature of the vehicle. Especially in the rear where Lexus apparently tried to meld the back of a late-90’s Camry with the IS250c.
Most IS250c’s will come equipped with the luxury package. This includes ‘Semi-Aniline’ leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, a bit of wood trim near the automatic shifter, and LED lights on the front that are found standard on the far less expensive CT200h.
With all the options checked off including navigation and parking assist, the price came to… $48,192… which is precisely where the IS250c begins to lose its competitive edge.
I’m going to be blunt here. For the longtime enthusiast, the IS250c will be a stark reminder of how Toyota is trying to ‘Scionize’ the Lexus division. Padded dashes and copious levels of interior wood have been replaced with two things. A dashboard material nearly identical in texture and color to an industrial grade GMC Yukon SUV, and door panels that are devoid of all the luxurious appliques that once adorned Toyota’s luxury flagships.
Cost containment is right there in your face. The steering wheel… would do fine in the Scion Tc. Not so much in a $48,000+ luxurious convertible. The wood is nice… but thin and scanty. On the positive side, the seats are still superb. The Lexus Enform system is truly state of the art, and the fit and assembly is unquestionable.
A non-enthusiast will look at the seats, slide right in, play around with the multimedia functions during their daily drive, and have fun. But enthusiasts and long-itme Lexus owners may have trouble ponying up so much money for this interior. At or near the $40k mark it is fine. But the inteiror of an IS250c is just not what most would expect out of a near-$50,000 Lexus.
Off the line a Lexus IS250c will still offer the magic carpet smoothness that is pure Lexus. From 0 to 30 it almost feels like a smooth sail of acceleration Handling is very tight and direct. The Lexus calling card here is to offer buyers plenty of confidence and just a hint of sportiness. Audi and BMW owners will find it to be clinical and over-managed… but for real world driving by a non-enthusiast it is near optimal.
The IS never felt underpowered while traveling through 600+ miles of interstates, town driving and winding roads. The torque range has a nice, almost Saab like thrust from 30 to 70 mph, and the 204 Horsepower, 2.5 Liter V6 is surprisingly capable of launching this vehicle.
Though some may complain that the ‘numbers’ are at the back of the pack, the real world experience reflect this car’s unique ability to pack punch with excellent fuel economy. The EPA sticker shows 21 city / 30 highway. But my experience with a 50/50 combination of city and highway was… 30 mpg. And no, that is not a typo. I even checked the tire pressure to make sure that nothing strange was going on and everything was stock and spec. Highway driving is in the the thick of the mid-30’s.
Why buy it?
Let’s look at the big reason to buy one of these things; the retractable hardtop. At speed the interior is an absolute tomb of quiet. We’re talking easy, whisper conversation quiet. Most folks won’t even realize that this Lexus has the power to go topless until you deem it so.
Press a single button and within 20 seconds the IS250c transforms itself into a surprisingly quiet convertible cruiser. There is some tire noise and rear passengers will get a bit of buffeting… but don’t worry. You won’t need to take on too many passengers. You can’t.
This convertible is essentially a three seater. Two adults on the passenger side can fit in a pinch. On the driver’s side I had to move my seat up four inches to accommodate my eight year old son. If you want to pay mere ‘lip service’ to the idea of transporting your friends, the IS250c may be just your ticket.
OverallThe truth is the IS250c needs a lot of interior upgrading, more rear passenger room and exterior design improvements to become a class leader. Will the non-enthusiasts who want to have a ‘Lexus’ appreciate this car? Yes. But a Volvo C70 offers a bit more room and a far nicer interior. The Audi A5 and BMW 328i give off the driving feel that appeals to the enthusiast crowd, and the Inifiniti G37 offers a better overall package without the quirks. In the real world of financing and leasing you’re only looking at about a $50 per month difference, so why buy an IS250c?Note: Lexus provided a free tank of gas, insurance, and use of the vehicle for a week.
Marko on Nov 20, 2011
If you're going to pay that much more for the convertible, they should at least give it a somewhat improved interior. I agree, the interior is great at the sedans' price points, but not so much for $50K. It doesn't help that the SC430's claim to fame was its interior (though it cost $20K or so more).
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